Saturday, April 9, 2016

Sunrises and Sunsets

This first one is actually a sunset from our first day
Day 4 (3/27-4/1/16)

For my last blog from Cancun I thought it appropriate to dwell on some sunsets and sunrises. As I have said before, we were up every morning before sunrise to get the most out of our day. The first two are not featured as we were sitting on the bus when they occurred. I will let them talk for themselves. 

Sail Boat Sunrise

First Sunrise

It is really hard to stop

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Mr Rogers Neighborhood

Mr. Roger
Day 3 (3/30-31/16)

We had kind of planned on taking another tour on Wednesday morning but everything we were interested in was already booked and we had intended on meeting our friend Roger in the afternoon anyway. So far we had taken little time to enjoy of the amenities our hotel so we decided to have a look around. As we walked down the beach we noticed that right next to our hotel there appeared to be what looked like another Mayan Ruins. We had to climb up around the outside to gain access to it but, sure enough, what we found was indeed the remains of a late post-classical period temple. It had been named the “Scorpions Temple” for the remains of a scorpion sculpture found on an inside wall. It was a rather small temple and in quite bad shape but still fun to explore and it was right next door. As I have mentioned before I am married to Miss Adventure so she decided that we should give the public bus system a try. We had read a tongue in cheek guide that described the intercity buses as somewhat questionable with drivers who all think they were formula 1racers. We were warned they just may stop for a taco along the way and that we should never assume that the drivers are going to know or care where you are going. Yeah, that about sums it up. Our first attempt got us about halfway to Rogers’s neighborhood before we decided to take a cab the rest of the way just to be on the safe side. As it turns out that was a good idea since the bus turned off several blocks from Rogers Hostel and the entry was halfway down an alley. Once we found our way the bus was a piece of cake. Once we found Roger we went out in search of “Cerveza”. We soon found a little outdoor Woodfired Pizza place that had exactly what we were looking for. After a couple of hours of catching up we moved on to another restaurant that offered more traditional fare. When we complimented our waiter on his impeccable English he informed us that he had spent most of his life in Texas and had moved back to Cancun a couple of years before. He was quite happy to have some customers to speak English to. Eileen and I both ordered shrimp cocktail our favorite traditional Mexican food and it did not disappoint. All too soon it was time to try our luck again with the bus. This time it went off without a hitch. We even met some girls from California would were just down the road from us. After getting up early to watch yet another sunrise it was off once again to old Cancun to spend the day with Roger. We spent the first part of the day checking out the neighborhood. We then decided to find a outdoor market that we had heard about. With very little trouble we eventually found it. Perhaps because it was early in the day and there were few customers the vendors were ruthless. It didn’t take long before we realized that very much of that would drive us completely bonkers so we decided to find a cafĂ© for more food and Cerveza. Again we found a little outdoor establishment and before long the, I am assuming, owner had taken us under her wing and made it her priority to show us a good time. I could right volumes on the genuine hospitality of the people. By the time we had lunch and a couple of Cervezas the owner hugged us when she saw us off. After that both Roger and we had to head back to our respective lodging to prepare for leaving the next day. It had been a good time but soon it must come to an end.
Miss Adventure

Temple of the Scorpion

Scene from the Temple
Old Town Cancun

Second Restaurant

A New Day in Mr Rogers Neighborhood

First Restaurant (Day View)

Second Restaurant (Day View)

The Hood


In the Park

Something you almost never see

Catching Up

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Living the Mayan Life "Chichen Itza"

The Castle of Kukulcan Pyramid
Day 2 (3/29/16)
It is day two and we are on the road again before sunup. This time it is off to Chichen Itza. We are far more rested today and although we got picked up over a half hour late we are in much better spirits. Today we are working our way inland away from the coast and unlike yesterday there is very little in the way of human activity along the highway. When we got halfway to Chichen Itza our guide Freddy started his litany. Freddy was not only an anthropologist but also a Mayan which made for a very interesting and informative lecture. He and his wife are trying to raise their children as Mayan as possible which includes sleeping in hammocks rather than beds. Among the vast information he gave us on the Mayan culture Freddy spent a great deal of time on the Mayan Calendar and its association with social and occupational status. Mayan occupations and social status was determined by birth date and we were able to purchase a Mayan calendar with our birthday and its significance listed. It turns out that I would have pretty much been doing the same thing that I am doing now. I was born on the day 13 Kan, In the month 12 Zac which makes me a; “Creator of possibilities, the illuminated one, the helper. Dispenses doubts with knowledge. His attribute is harmony while being governed by Mars.” This could also just make me a sucker who bought a calendar.

When you first see the Castle of Kukulcan Pyramid you begin to understand why it is one of the new seven wonders of world but it isn’t until you start exploring it that you really begin to understand just how incredible it is. First off, it is the largest Mayan Calendar in existence with just about every facet of its structure set up to track time. We just missed the descending of Kukulcan (the snake god) which happens every March 21st for the spring Solstice. At the certain time on the 21st the sun lines up so that a shadow appears which appears like a snake descending the staircase. Perhaps my favorite feature of the Pyramid thought is that if you stand by the north stairway and clap your hands the sound that comes back to you is the sound of a quetzal, the sacred bird of the Mayans. Apparently the steps have been designed in such a way as to create this harmonic distortion. How they were able to tune their stairs to sound like their sacred bird is mind boggling. Apparently the pyramid is made in such a way that it is a natural amplifier and a priest speaking from the top could be heard above the massive crowds that would attend the ceremonies. At some point archaeologist decided to tunnel into the interior of the pyramid to see what was inside. What they found was another pyramid so it is thought that every fifty two years, which is the Mayan life cycle, a new pyramid was build over the old one. In the very interior they found a jaguar chair and a Chac mool sculpture which told them that the pyramid was used for human sacrifice. As I said on my last blog it would seem that Cichen Itza was more associated with human sacrifice than Tulum or at least we didn’t see evidence or hear about it. It turns out that there were two types of human sacrifice performed at Chichen Itza. The first was mostly reserved for the enemy warriors. These were more violent and consisted of breaking the warriors back and while he was incapacitated cutting out his still beating heart and burning it in the bowl which Chac mool held on his belly. The second was reserved for children who were raised for the purpose of sacrifice and less violent. Up until the age of sacrifice usually around thirteen or fourteen these children and their families were treated very well. At the ceremony of Sacrifice they were drugged and dressed in robes that were decorated with gold and jewels and then thrown in to the cenote, a large sinkhole with groundwater in the bottom. Some of these children survive and then they were exalted. There were many more buildings at Chichen Itza, but perhaps second only to the Castle of Kukulcan in importance is the ball court, one of the best examples outside of Peru. Again there is evidence of human sacrifice associated with the game but it is disputed just which was sacrificed the winner or loser. From the Ball Court it is just a short walk down to the Cenote and its sauna building. Again we worked our way back to the bus through the markets and again we were glad that we had been there early when we saw all the buses arriving.
Hi Eileen

Their everywhere.

This door was cut into Kukulcan Pyramid to find what lay inside
Ball Game Court from a distance

Chac Mool on the Temple of the Warriors 

The Temple of the Warriors

Chac Mool at the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars

Inside the Ball Game Court

The Sacred Cenote

Eileen at the Platform of the Eagles and Jaguars

Platform of the Skulls, Where the skulls of the victims of War were stacked

Annex to the Temple of the Jaguars

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Living the Mayan Life (Tulum)

Living the Mayan Life
Day 1 (3/28/16)

Last year we had planned on meeting our friend Roger in Mexico for spring break but things just didn’t work out so we ended up going to meet friends in New Mexico instead. This year however things worked out better and Roger was going to be traveling around the Yucatan peninsula for his spring break. We agreed to meet in Cancun and so the deal was made. We had a couple of days on our own before he would be arriving so we set up a pair of excursions. We were told to that taking early tours was worth the early rising because we would beat the crowds and the heat. It turns out that was a very good suggestion. Our first tour was to Tulum, a Mayan ruin south of Cancun, so we were up before the sun and off to find adventure. We were slightly tired after getting in to Cancun late so the bus ride and the waiting for other people was a bit of a challenge but we survived. Our guide had started giving us the background of the area on the way down but a bad sound system made it somewhat hard to hear. After getting to the ruins it was all worthwhile however and we were glad that we did the early expedition. The buildings themselves at Tulum are not perhaps the most impressive of the Mayan ruins in Mexico but, located on the coast overlooking the Mexican Caribbean with its white sand beaches and turquoise to azure waters; it certainly has to be one of the most scenic. Our guide proved to be very knowledgeable and kept our interest through the guided part of the tour. To add to the curiosity factor, Iguanas were everywhere ranging in size from small to quite large out sunning themselves on the rocks and buildings. Unlike Chichen Itza, which seems to be developed more around human sacrifice, Tulum seems to be more about worship of the sun, stars and the environment in general. It is amazing to see how advanced the Mayan civilization really was. All of the buildings seem to be set up as mechanisms for measuring some movement of the sun and/or stars. One of my favorite structures was a dolmen that was set up in such a way as to be an early warning system for an approaching hurricane and would start whistling when one was forthcoming. It turns out that there is even a Viking connection to Tulum. On the frieze of one of the buildings is a long haired bearded man who does not fit in with what is known of the indigenous people. It is theorized that long before Columbus or the Conquistadors set foot on Mexican soil Vikings had already been there and that this figure represents one of these northern visitors. On our way back to the bus we perused the markets and were talked into having our picture taken with traditional Mayans and their snake. I have never been a big fan of snakes but surprised myself by donning the snake for the picture. By now the crowds were starting to pour in and it was getting very warm and we were extremely happy that we had come early.
Castle at Tulum

Frieze of upper temple

House of Columns


The Caribbean 

Temple of Descending God

Unexcavated Temple

Another Iguana


House of the Chulton
House of Columns

Beautiful Iquana
Indigenous Mayans

Mayan Life